Nearly two years ago I took a vow in front of friends and family to love and respect my husband, Brad. But that was not the only promise I made that day. I also declared before all of those present, my decision to receive his two children, Brady and Halle, as my own; to love and nurture them as a mother. Their mother had passed away when they were only one and three years old. They had been praying with their father for 5 years that God would bring them a new wife and mommy. It was a beautiful moment filled with all the tender feelings you would expect. I could not contain my smile. I was not only becoming a wife but also adding two amazing children to my life.
However, not long after that memorable day reality hit. I had not known these children for all that long. The challenge of merging five lives on a daily basis began to sink in. I started to wonder if I could really do this. My biological daughter, Hannah, was only three years old. I felt completely lost in parenting older school-aged children. The pure joy I felt gave way to panic. I desperately wanted to be the right kind of mom for these two children who had gone through such loss. The pressure of attempting to parent my stepchildren and biological child properly overwhelmed me.
I sought wisdom from any source I could find: God’s word, my husband, family, other Godly couples, books and podcasts. One concept really impacted me; the idea of “dating your kids.” Brad and I made it a priority to have date nights with each other at least twice a month. Any relationship needs dedicated time to grow. This is a truth I freely acknowledged concerning my relationship with God and Brad. Maybe that could also include my children. When you date someone, you are pursuing a deeper understanding of who they are. I realized my children did not need a mother who parented perfectly or properly. They needed a mom who pursued an understanding of their young hearts.
What does dating my kids look like? It means showing interest in their world. Oftentimes it means being willing to do something I do not at first find enjoyable. However, fun can be found when I approach it from their perspective. Entering the world of my children has reminded me of what it means to have childlike faith and wonder. I am challenged to choose joy in the seemingly small moments as I engage one-on-one with each of them. A date might be as simple as time alone with each other at home, or it may involve an elaborate outing. It is not necessarily the activity that matters but that a deeper relationship is being pursued. Obviously, each date will be different based on the child’s age and interests. For example, my older daughter enjoys playing games. On one of our dates, we went to a local coffee shop and just sat there with hot chocolate playing the games she had chosen to bring.
In what is often a fast-paced life with four young children (we recently added an ours baby to our brood), it has taken intentionality to create a place to honor the hearts of my children. As I am taking time to meet my children in their space, a foundation of lasting trust is being built. There is something to be treasured in the vulnerability of getting to know one another. I have grown closer to my biological daughter and stepchildren by embarking on the adventure of dating my kids. I am excited to continue this journey with each one of them.
As their stepmother, I have the honor of adopting Brad’s two children into my heart. It has given me a deeper glance into the Father God’s heart, so beautifully stated in the Message version. Galatians 4:6 declares the greatness of the Father’s love for us. “You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, ‘Papa! Father!’ Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance.” Dating my children has opened the eyes of my heart to the truly awesome way God’s love pursues us.
During this month commemorating love, why not go on a date with your children? Discover what God may reveal to you from His heart of unfailing love.
Here are some date ideas to get you started:
- Have an at-home reading date. Read one-on-one with your child and discuss it together.
- Play an imaginary game with them, e.g ponies, dolls, pretend family, LEGOs.
- Join in playing video games with your child.
- Have a dinner outing to a place they choose.
- Go out for breakfast.
- Go on a hike in a park.
- Simply take a walk in your neighborhood.
- Go to a museum or the zoo.
- Head to the dollar store to find fun stuff together.
- Let them design their own parent/child date
We want to hear from you:
Leave a comment below and tell us how have you dated your kids in the past? How has the relationship flourished since you began dating? If you have not started dating yet, please come back and share once you have put some of the ideas above to use.